A few days ago I posted regarding libertarians attempting to live a life in accordance with the non-aggression principle in this world of institutionalized aggression. This post was prompted by an article by Eric Peters. I will summarize: Peters states that taking a job working for the government is always wrong; I suggest that being pure in this muddy world in not so simple, and drawing a line where Peters does is arbitrary.
Why am I returning to this? Well, I am not…exactly. The comments at Peters’ post number in the hundreds, and somehow have taken a turn toward the topic of abortion – I don’t recall how, I think someone said this issue of abortion was his libertarian litmus test – favoring abortion was his proper libertarian conclusion. This prompted many comments on each side.
Some of the discussion was rather…interesting? Is an unborn child a life; thereby fully subject to the philosophical protection of the NAP? What about minor children? Some suggest that these be considered property of the parents, thus the parents are pretty much free to do as they please with the children. Interesting.
I have previously written regarding my view on the subject of abortion; while I consider it to be morally wrong, and certainly a violation of the NAP, I wrote on the basis of Walter Block’s concept of evictionism. In other words, I tackled the subject based on real estate law and contract law – concluding that the unborn child has property rights in the womb. Abortion violates the unborn child’s property rights.
But what of this slippery slope – from conception until reaching majority, the child is property of the parents, and the parents are free to deal with their property in any manner they decide? Or perhaps, stated more appropriately…until a child reaches majority, does it have the full rights inherent in the NAP? This is a moral question, begging for a consistent application of the NAP and requiring reason both consistently and objectively applicable.
I will try – being my first real attempt at taking this approach, let’s call this my work in progress.
I guess to tackle this it is first necessary to address: is an unborn child human? This seems to me a clear yes. On the day it is born, there is no doubt about this. So what about the day before, while still in the womb? Is it something else? This seems illogical – only one day before, could it be a zebra? A tree? Obviously not.
Then what about one week before? One month before? Eight-and-one-half months before? I will quote Block (as cited in my above-referenced post), who, while supportive of the woman in evicting the child, nevertheless recognizes that the unborn child is human:
At what point does human life begin? There are really only two reasonable possibilities: at conception or at birth; all other points of development in between are merely points along a continuum which begins and ends with these two options.
So which is it? Does life begin at the beginning point of this nine-month continuum or at the end of it? We take the former position. We maintain that the fetus is an alive human being from day one onward, with all the rights pertaining to any other member of the species.
I will come back later to address “with all the rights pertaining to any other member of the species” later, as I do not completely agree. However, if one concludes that the unborn child is human on the day before its birth, where does one draw the line in the preceding nine months? I suggest there is no line to draw other than conception; as Block does, all points between conception and birth are arbitrary – one end or the other must be chosen. In this, I agree with Block – the unborn child is human from the time of conception.
Dr. Paul also agrees:
If the life of the fetus may be destroyed while within the body, there is no consistent argument against the same mother destroying that same life the minute or the week after birth in it is in the mother’s home. Whether the baby is four centimeters below the skin or lying in a crib within the home, the right should be the same according to this argument, for both the body and the home are the property of the mother.
Next – is the unborn child viable? If “evicted” (to use Block’s terminology and concept), can it survive?
Here again, I will ask: is a newborn infant, one day old, “viable”? Is it able to survive without support from an adult? Of course, no – and only in degrees is it more or less “viable” than it was the day before or eight-and-one-half months before birth. Upon which “degree” is the abortion proponent willing to draw the line? On what basis?
Again, citing from my earlier post:
…Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the abortion king who personally performed 1,500 abortions and supervised another 60,000, then subsequently changed his mind about the procedure….
An important point that convinced Nathanson abortion should be rejected was that “every good argument for abortion is a good argument for infanticide.”
A day before, a day after – it’s all the same on this point: the child, born or unborn, is equally dependent on an adult for care. In either case, one must conclude that the child is not “viable.”
So, I conclude it is human from conception, as any point thereafter is arbitrary. Conception is the only point where a solid line can be drawn logically – any point after conception and until birth and even thereafter – until the child reaches majority – is grayscale; arbitrary.
Therefore, if a parent has some right to terminate life prior to birth, the parent must hold the same right immediately after birth – and potentially until the child reaches majority (as some on Peters’ thread seem to suggest). After all, the child is not “viable” until it is “viable.”
You might retort: viable and majority are not the same thing! I suggest they are the same, defined as follows: viability is majority and majority is viability, meaning: a human who is able to function and survive in this division-of-labor-world via voluntary arrangements (voluntary within the muddy context of the state-coerced world in which we live). Anything less than this is not viable and is not majority.
You don’t like this definition? Well, I ask: where do you draw the line? Explain how you do so logically. Perhaps when a child is able to pour a bowl of cereal on his own? But how did the cereal get in the pantry? Perhaps when the child earns enough to feed himself? But what about clothing and shelter?
How about when a child graduates high school? College? Eighteen years of age? Twenty-one? Are these not arbitrary? Are these not arbitrary objective milestones for what is, in fact, a subjective event?
So what does this suggest – if a parent is free to do as he pleases to an unborn child (abortion), under what firm and fast rule does that freedom change until the child reaches majority? Where is the line drawn? I am open to suggestions.
Do I mean to suggest that a child, under the care of his parents, has full access to the wonderful world of NAP? No, I don’t – and this is one point where I differ with Block’s statement above, if I properly understand his meaning. There is always governance – not to be confused with government. If we are to live in any form of a civilized world, there must be forms of governance – and one of the primary forms of governance is the family. I expand on this concept in detail here, so I will not go further into it now.
But where does one draw the line? How much NAP is a child entitled to?
Here again there is grayscale – and I do not intend to explore this in detail. I will, however, suggest a bare minimum starting point; without this, there is no point: the most complete violation of the NAP is for one person to initiate aggression that results in the death of another. Death is the ultimate separator from life and liberty (absent theological considerations, which are of no concern in this analysis).
However else a parent might be justified in violating the NAP with his child – and again, I do not intend to explore this at this time – it seems unequivocal that initiating an action that causes the child’s death is a violation of even a child’s rights under NAP. This seems the minimum basic point that a firm line can be drawn; although I do not suggest that there are no other logical points elsewhere in the direction toward complete access to NAP. I am open to counter views.
Therefore, I conclude:
- A child is human from the moment of conception.
- A child has at least partial protection under the NAP until it reaches the age of majority.
- The concept of viability cannot be distinguished from majority for purposes of identifying the child’s ability to fully claim all of the benefits of NAP.
- While the exact limit of access to NAP that a child (before reaching majority) can legitimately claim is beyond the scope of this analysis, it seems appropriate to conclude that the line can at least be drawn at some point prior to the child suffering death due to the initiation of force by the parent.
Where in my previous post on this topic I addressed abortion from a contractual basis – concluding that abortion violated the contract rights and property rights of the unborn child, it seems to me that morally, under a consistent application of the NAP and a logical consideration of human life and viability/majority, abortion is a violation of the NAP from the unborn child’s point of view – and that the unborn child has at least this minimum right under NAP.
If you object, please clearly state your views on the following as clear objections will require me to develop properly considered views in response:
- Where do you draw the line of human / not human? Why?
- Where do you draw the line of majority / viability? Why?
- What are your views about NAP as this applies to an individual prior to reaching majority / viability? Please explain.
- What is your minimally required applicability of NAP to a minor? Why?